And she can't bear to get emotional in front of her surviving children, because she wants to appear strong for them.
"I don't want anybody to see me cry," she said.
Her daily trips to the cemetery where her son, Michael, is buried are the only times when she lets herself shed tears.
Espino's story is a familiar one in San Bernardino, where 46 people lost their lives to violence in 2012, a sharp jump from the year before.
Law enforcement predicted a surge in crime as the rough economy and the city's insolvency forced cuts in police personnel, and state prison realignment changed the inmate population in local jails.
Click points for details | Red = Most recent incident(s)
Their predictions were right.
The city surpassed 2011's total of 30 killings in August.
"We're at a 55 percent increase over last year, just murders alone," said San Bernardino police Sgt. Gary Robertson.
With the latest rash of deaths on their minds, residents throughout the year gathered at townhall meetings to hear what the department was going to do about the killings. Officers held sweeps targeting parolees and people on probation, and seized guns. The department's violent crime task force kept a close eye on problem areas of the city.
Church leaders and other residents held peace rallies, hoping to prevail with messages of unity and hope.
Police Chief Robert Handy, despite seeing his department shrink and morale decline, has high hopes for the new year, even as his force absorbs the fallout of being in a city that proclaimed itself broke in August.
"I hope we can get the department stabilized," he said. "The turmoil from the bankruptcy has caused a lot of difficulty for our employees, a lot of uncertainty and questions," he said. "Hopefully we can get those issues resolved so they can feel more secure when they report to work.
Searching for a motive
The motives in 18 of 2012's homicides remain a mystery.
One case is August's double murder at JMC Tires near the corner of Base Line and Sepulveda Avenue. Elias Esparza, 37, an employee of the shop, and Roberto Betancourt, 48, a customer, died after two masked men barged into a repair bay and opened fire.
Police say their target was Esparza.
"Based on our investigation, based on video footage, he was followed and targeted," Robertson said.
Betancourt was shot simply because he was standing nearby.
But the reason for the killing is unknown.
"We have our ideas, but we can't say for sure," Robertson said.
Three men - Juan Lomeli, 42, Jorge Cinco, 20, and Jose Lopez, 28 - have been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Another victim, Myrtis Boone, 50, of San Bernardino, was found dead in early September in Lytle Creek Park. Police say Boone had been reported missing from a retirement home.
She suffered several gunshots and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police later discovered it wasn't the first time the woman had been a victim of violence.
"She was a victim in a crime seven to eight years ago that left her a mute and blind in her right eye," Robertson said.
Known motives in other cases are varied.
Police say six homicides were gang-related, four were robberies that turned deadly and three were domestic.
SAN BERNARDINO MURDERS 2012
Fatal officer-involved shootings - 5
Homicides ruled justified - 5
Gang-related: 6 (15 percent)
Domestic: 3 (8 percent)
Robbery: 4 (10 percent)
Dispute: 7 (17 percent)
Disrespect: 2 (5 percent)
Unknown: 18 (45 percent)
Clearance rate -
2012: 57 percent
2011: 56 percent
Blunt force: 2
Gender of victims
Race of victims
* - Doesn't include justified homicides or officer-involved shootings.
Source: San Bernardino Police Department
Espino was one of those victims. Police discovered this while interviewing his suspected killer, Daniel Walker, who was 17-years-old at the time.
"He said, `I did this because the guy disrespected me,"' Robertson said.
Espino was found dead in the 200 block of South Lenore Avenue on May 13, during the city's bloodiest month. There were 12 homicides in May.
His sister, Diana Espino, says her brother wasn't street smart and often gave people rides home in his silver Honda Pilot. He was so trusting, he decided to drive Walker home even though he had just met him at a party.
Michael Espino didn't want the teen to risk walking home alone.
"He had the mind of a child and never thought anything bad would happen to him," Diana Espino said.
San Bernardino's homicide detectives solved 26 of the 46 murders this year, a slight increase from 2011.
Investigators continue to investigate the remaining 20, with the hopes of uncovering the right lead, or getting a phone call that directs them to a suspect.
But they have celebrated some victories.
One solved case that detectives consider a highlight of the year is the arrest of three suspects in the slaying of television repairman, John Cone.
"It went from absolutely nothing, to getting three people into custody," Robertson said.
Cone's estranged wife, Laurie Cone, along with Gary Gallion, 29, and Shawna Bayless, 39, have all been charged and ordered to stand trial in the killing at DC Radio and Television.
Cone, 63, had been struck more than a dozen times with a blunt object. His legs, ankles and arms were bound with duct tape and electrical cord. He had been gagged with duct tape.
Investigators interviewed members of Cone's family soon after the discovery. And they sensed something was wrong.
"The one thing that put me on edge was watching the victim's wife's interview," Robertson said. "It just didn't seem right for losing her husband."
They eventually discovered that Laurie Cone had solicited Gallion to kill and rob her husband at the repair shop, which doubled as Cone's home. Gallion and Bayless came to the shop April 2, killed Cone and then took off with valuables including 15 to 20 guns.
Despite identifying suspects in the case, investigators ran into trouble trying to recover the stolen property.
They came to a home where Gallion and Bayless had stashed the weapons, but the guns were gone.
Robertson said another group of thieves came to the home and stole the guns from the pair.
Police eventually tracked down the guns - mostly rifles - on the south end of San Bernardino.
"The case came together very well," Robertson said.
The new year
Lower staffing has been an issue that contributed to a higher average response rate to emergency calls - from an average of 4.9 minutes per call in 2011 to an average of 5.4 minutes in December.
Handy told members of the City Council that there has been an increase in officers calling in sick, as well as heightened concerns about pensions, paycuts and jobs.
Reading headlines about the city's battle with the California Public Employees' Retirement System and hearing that the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is preparing a proposal for providing police services has escalated the tensions.
"All of these things happening at once has a dramatic impact on the officers," he said.
But the chief has some immediate plans to address the staffing levels and violence in the city.
Handy plans to continue assigning his violent crimes task force to assist the homicide bureau on various unsolved cases. The officers will also focus on high-crime areas, keeping a close eye on people police say have the highest chance of committing more crimes, such as parolees.
High on his list of priorities is bringing up the number of patrol officers on the streets.
"We're trying to get our patrol levels stable because it's been up and down," Handy said.
There are around 113 to 115 officers working the streets now, but he'd like to get those numbers up to 135 to 140, including supervisors.
To do that, he plans to reassign 12 officers from district resource officers positions back into patrol.
"There's no magic solution to preventing homicides," he said. "It's more about targeting high crime areas and preventing violent crime in general."
Reach Melissa via email or call her at 909-386-3878.
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